Saturday, August 18, 2012

10 Perfectly Trashy Action Flicks

Call them guilty pleasures. Call them insane fun. Hell, call them goddamn bloody awesome, point is, I firmly believe that there is room in the heart of every movie fan to emote love for trashy action movies.

When I published my review for the first Expendables, people were stunned by how much I enjoyed it. Was it good? Good no. Was it perfect in that trashy action way? Bet your ass. So in the wake of The Expendables 2, here’s a list of 10 action flicks that I absolutely adore. The possibilities here are endless, so please feel free to share your favorites in the comments!


The Running Man (1987)
An American television network airs a reality show about criminals who are being hunted by professional killers. But when Arnold Schwarzenegger is forced to play, the killers and studio executives alike get the unwilling participant they never… saw…coming.

Everytime I watch this movie, I’m reminded further of just how bad it is. But I also find myself loving it even more. Arguably my favorite Arnold performance of all time.

The Last Boy Scout (1991)
From its first scene, in which a professional football player shoots three members of the opposing team… in the middle of a game, we know that Tony Scott’s complete action romp will be nothing but trashy bliss.

Dig this plot: A mad-at-life private dick (Bruce Willis), teams with a disgraced ex-football star (Damon Wayans) to hunt the killer of Wayans’ stripper girlfriend (Halle Berry). I mean, I could explain more here, but do I really need to?

Cliffhanger (1993)
Following one of the best, most holy-shit-I-didn’t-see-that-coming movie beginnings ever, Cliffhanger doesn’t do a thing to disappoint. Stallone at his most remorseful, stoners jumping off cliffs, John Lithgow’s accent, Leon in a cave, night vision chases, bats, and, of course, a genuinely jaw dropping stunt in which people zip line from one plane to another without the use of special effects. Cliffhanger has it all and then some. Action trashy at its absolute finest.

Last Action Hero (1993)
Yeah, I love the hell out of Last Action Hero. A movie about a movie-obsessed kid who is given a magic ticket that actually puts him inside the movies. Needless to say, this flick was a tent pole of my childhood. There was (ummm, is) no limit to the envy I had for that fumbling, idiotic main character. The kid got to meet his heroes and affect change within the films he loved. Mix in a never hammier Schwarzenegger, a terrifying Tom Noonan, and a fantastic ending that pits the characters alongside with the actors playing them, and you’ve got sheer joy.

I also need to note that Last Action Hero, along with Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, were my first introductions to the films of Ingmar Bergman. So, you see, it’s worthy after all.

Surviving the Game (1994)
A handful of rich, yuppie, mostly white dudes (including Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey and F. Murray Abraham) pay a homeless black guy (Ice-T) to go hunting with them. Problem is, after a pleasant night of drinking and storytelling, Ice-T wakes up only to discover that he’s the one being hunted. The yuppies give him a bit of a head start, and what follows is pure ridiculous fun.

Surviving the Game is on Netflix Instant, and if I said that I wasn’t watching it while writing this post, then I’d be lying. It’s just… perfect.

Virtuosity (1995)
Denzel Washington plays a disgraced cop who is tasked with hunting down a madman digital entity (Russell Crowe, having a blast), who has… escaped from a virtual world. To add to the trash: everytime Crowe’s character gets hurt, he can recharge himself by externally ingesting… glass.

Yup. Awesome.

Escape from L.A. (1996)
Snake Plissken is back for this impossibly trashy, and completely unnecessarily sequel to Escape from New York. This time, Snake is told by the President that if he infiltrates a criminally-invested Los Angeles and recovers a weapon that can kill electricity, then all of Snake’s crimes will be pardoned. But when a movie has city surfing, holograms, and a simply thrilling basketball sequence, who can possibly care about plot?

Con Air (1997)
After winning a well-deserved Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage sold out in the best possible way, starring in an epic hat trick of action thrillers. The Rock and Face/Off could easily make this list as well, but Con Air has to take the cake as the most absurdly fun of the three.

Putting all of the world’s most terrifying criminals on one plane (led by a never-more-psychopathic John Malkovich), only to have them take it over, is recipe for the best that trashy cinema has to offer. Don’t move or the bunny gets it.

Swordfish (2001)
If I haven’t made it clear already, I genuinely enjoy every single film on this list. I appreciate that, in the grand scheme of things, they add nothing to the global encyclopedia of cinematic wonderment, but I love them all the same. Just watch the intro to Swordfish, in which, in a thrilling, albeit completely digital, 360 shot, the bad guys blow up dozens of innocent people because the good guys broke the rules.

There’s also a chase scene in this film, in which a famous computer hacker (Hugh Jackman) is pursued down a very long, very dirty, very bumpy hill by a detective (Don Cheadle), that really makes me appreciate the film as a whole unabashedly.

Punisher: War Zone (2008)
I think more people die in the first 10 minutes of Punisher: War Zone than in most action films put together. It’s loud, mean, bloody and balls nuts. There’s something to be said for a movie that acknowledges what it is right away, and owns it for the duration. This Punisher has no qualms admitting that it is batshit crazy, which is something I find refreshing amongst a genre full of films that pretend to be more than they are.

Now for the fun part, let’s hear your favorite trashy action films. ReadySetGo.

50 comments:

  1. Excellent choices! Love that you put Virtuosity on here, I remember seeing that when it first came out in the theater and have loved it ever since.

    My own personal additions would have to be Tango & Cash and Bad Boys, two fun flicks that I can't get enough of.

    And if I want to reach for complete absurdity I'll go with Desperado.

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    1. Hey Tim, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Virtuosity is just awesome, isn't it?

      Tango & Cash was close to making my cut, as was Bad Boys, but then I realized that I genuinely love Bad Boys. Like... not in a trashy way, in a I Love It way. Same with Desperado! Crazy and perfect.

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  2. Great list. Escape from LA is one of the best, goofiest films ever. Really enjoyed this.

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    1. Thanks man! Escape from LA is just batshit nuts. Bliss.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  3. Yes to Con Air and Swordfish, but I haven't seen the rest. I liked what I saw of Virtuosity on TV, so I'll have to finish it and get to these other flicks.

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    1. Virtuosity is so absurd, it is just heavenly. Same with Con Air and Swordfish - so lame they're good.

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  4. I've only seen The Running Man, The Last Boy Scout, Cliffhanger, Last Action Hero and Con Air, and I do like them. Particularly Cliffhanger and Con Air. Trashy action flicks can be awesome. My brother and I used to watch a lot of them with our Dad.

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    1. Nice man. I used to watch these kinds of movies with my brother all the time. Glad to hear you dig them!

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  5. With the exception of Swordfish, I can go for these films. I don't take them seriously and they're so much fun to watch. I would also voice Tim with Tango & Cash, that film is hilarious!

    Russell Crowe is the reason why I love Virtuosity.

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    1. Man, I really need to watch Tango & Cash again.

      Crowe is awesome in Virtuosity. "1, 2, 3, 4..."

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  6. I am a big believer in guilty pleasures, but I am not a fan of action movies. I always leave when my husband watches one, because the testosterone level in the room just gets too thick. :-P The only movie on the list I've seen was The Running Man which I thoroughly hated.

    Good post! I always appreciate when serious film buffs reveal their love of cinematic trash. After all, of all the roles movie-making plays -- as an art form, a reflection of culture a means of storytelling, blah, blah, blah -- none is more important than pure escapist entertainment.

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    1. Haha thanks! Escapist entertainment definitely has a place in my heart. And I completely understand that you don't like these action flicks - you should do a guilt pleasures post!

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  7. Nice list. Haven't seen most of these but always enjoy shitty action films. My favorites include the rushhour series and Lethal Weapon 5 (its an its always sunny in Philadelphia parody that is the trashiest movie I have ever seen).

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    1. That It's Always Sunny parody was hysterical, I completely forgot about that. I liked Rush Hour 1 and 2, but thought the third one was a huge waste of time. Oh well!

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  8. Love this post! I think whenever someone asks why I couldn't just enjoy Total Recall as a "mindless action flick" I'll direct them to this. There is a CORRECT way to do stupid action. Last Action Hero and Con-Air would top my list, plus my FAVORITE: The Rock! Ooh and Independence Day!

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    1. Yes, EXACTLY! There is definitely a "proper" way to do mindless action. Ooooh I LOVE The Rock, but, like Bad Boys, I truthfully don't think The Rock is trashy at all. I think it's... uh, really good. Haha.

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  9. Excellent list! Totally agree about Punisher: War Zone and Virtuosity (one of personal favorites...seen it over 15 times.)

    "Hand me that crowdpleaser" -Parker Barnes....(starts shooting with an awesome shotgun). Haha.

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    1. Thanks Ty! I was wondering (and hoping) you'd see this list, given that your site is the tell all, end all of action flicks.

      Virtuosity rooocks.

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    2. Your welcome, buddy! Thanks for the nice words.

      Sid 6.7 is Russell Crowe's best work.

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  10. Great list, but this is all you need :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDxn0Xfqkgw

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    1. Ohhh shit that is priceless. You're right, that's all we need.

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  11. Nice list! I think you've covered my favourites here. I used to have a stable selection of "easy viewing" that I watched repeatedly.

    Sandra Bullock in The Net and Demolition Man, both excellently bad.
    Bad Boys (the first one and only the first one) is even more amazing today than when it was first released because it shows that Michael Bay was able to tone it the fuck down once upon a time.

    The Arnie trio of Running Man, Total Recall and Terminator (granted T1 is better than most movies so prob not classed as "bad") is priceless.

    3 out 4 Die Hards are always fun, the second one just didn't do it for me.

    Shit. I'm filing up your comments, why don't I just write my own post?!

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    1. ps. not seen or heard of vituosity. must see this terrible sounding movie.

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    2. Oh great choices all around. Love Die Hard 3, that movie rocks serious ass. Demolition Man and The Net are two other great ones. You should definitely write your own post!

      See Virtuosity ASAP!

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  12. Alex, is it sad that I saw the picture at the top and immediately knew it was Surviving the Game? That movie is wonderfully trashy, and I'm right with you on a lot of these. The Running Man seemed so much more ridiculous when I watched it more recently, particularly the hockey and lightning guys. I'll admit that I actually saw many of these in the theaters originally, including Virtuosity and even the awful Escape From LA. My friends weren't so happy with me when we saw that one. Fun post!

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    1. Thanks Dan! That is so cool that you recognized that Surviving the Game still at the top of the post, that movie is just amazing. Rewatched it over the weekend, and was just thrilled the entire time. That Prince Henry Stout story Gary Busey tells... perfect.

      I would love to somehow see Virtuosity in the theater.

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  13. it's amazing the percentage of these that are headed by Arnold.

    I'm going to throw Total Recall into the list, totally ridiculous, and endlessly quotable.

    Batman (1966) probably deserves a spot on this list, but I wouldn't call it trashy, it just knows exactly what it is.

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    1. Thought about Total Recall. Perfectly trashy movie indeed. Ha, the original Batman is just... wow.

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  14. I love those trashy Arnold Schwarzenegger films, although I don't remember which of them I've seen.
    Great list, it's cool to read you write about "un-serious" films.

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    1. Ha, thanks! It's fun to write about them too. Sure, my preference is toward heavy-handed, cold indies, but I really do love all types of films. No limits or restrictions whatsoever. Thanks for reading!

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  15. Great post Alex.

    While you're among the more high-brow movie enthusiasts that i've encountered, I love how you can still enjoy these type of movies for exactly what they're supposed to be - a fun-filled two hour romp that you can watch with a smile on your face.

    Big ups to Last Boy Scout ("touch me again and i'll kill you", "I appear to have dropped my cigarette - may I have another?", Cliffhanger, Virtuosity, Con Air and Swordfish.

    The Rock would be my clear favourite on this score, and Speed deserves a mention as well.

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    1. Thanks Cam! I definitely love, and am drawn to, heavy-handed foreign and indie dramas that explore the darkness of human behavior, but man, I never turn my back on a classic trashy action flick.

      There's room for everything in my cinephiled life.

      Love that you dug some of my picks. I considered the The Rock and Speed, but like a few others people have mentioned, I actually think those are solid movies in their own right. Crazy, but I genuinely love 'em!

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  16. I haven't seen any of these films. I'm sorry, Alex.

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    1. Ha, it is quite all right. You will prevail. Life will go on.

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  17. Cheers for this Alex. I haven't seen any of these films (is this a good thing?) and I also haven't seen The Expendables. But when I saw Expendables 2 was coming out I was trying to decide whether I should watch the first and the new one, so you've made my mind up for me!

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    1. Ha it may just be a good thing! None of these movies will make you think, per se, but that's kind of the point, you know? Just a handful of absurd action thrillers that you can enjoy in the moment and not take with you.

      The Expendables is ridiculous. And fun.

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  18. Put the bunny. back in the box.

    Though your list could be much, much longer, that would just be absurd. Solid write up. lol

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    1. Oh man, limiting it to 10 was the challenge! I could've keep going, for sure. Love me a trashy action flick.

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  19. Where in God's name is Diehard?"???????????

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    1. Ha, Die Hard is an awesome movie! Not a trashy one!

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  20. Oh man, I love so many of these. And like you say about Bad Boys and Die Hard -- some of these aren't trashy, they are just plain awesome-sauce! Con Air, Last Action Hero, Cliffhanger, Last Boy Scout -- they are classics. I'd throw in Face/Off on here. It's so over the top, it's almost balletic!

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    1. I was SO CLOSE to having Face/Off on here, but Con Air is just slightly more ridiculous to me. Either way, so glad to hear you appreciate a trashy action flick!

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  21. The latest trashy action flick I saw in the theatre was "Shoot 'Em Up". Loved the scene where they jumped out of the plane, and his love for carrots. This is definitely in my top 10 trashy action flick list.

    ~ Darrell

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    1. Oh yeah, that is a GREAT trashy action flick. Good call. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  22. Now, a Top 10 MOST AWESOME/SMARTEST ACTION flicks. A few are: The Dark Knight, Die Hard, and Heat.

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    1. That's actually a really solid idea...

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  23. For me, top 5: Total Recall(1990), Taken(2008), Predator(1987), Commando(1985), The Fifth Element(1997).

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    1. Break out the fine china, chill the lemonade, tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree. 'Cause this boy's comin' home to his ladies, comin' home... forever.

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